Polk Theater

93-09 37th Avenue,
Jackson Heights, NY 11372

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Showing 76 - 100 of 142 comments

Altoblanco
Altoblanco on May 18, 2006 at 8:29 pm

As for the box office cashier “Paola” (formerly “Paolo”, no doubt), I honestly thought that she was a drag queen! That was one ugly broad, with a snippy attitude to match.

That whole place was a nightmare â€" facilities, management, staffing, customers…

Altoblanco
Altoblanco on May 18, 2006 at 8:13 pm

All films were shown using tired old VHS equipment and a CRT projector. The manager did not have the resources (or know-how) to upgrade to a DVD player and movies. To him, VHS was probably state-of-the-art technology!

I recall one VHS deck being located up in the projection room, which was used mostly for storage, filled wall-to-wall with VHS tapes, piled everywhere.

Every time a movie ended, one of the theatre employees (i.e. “security” monitors) would be sent upstairs to put in the next tape. If the manager was working alone, there would be a empty screen and a wait of several minutes, as the old man needed time to hobble upstairs to change tapes!

William
William on May 18, 2006 at 11:35 am

The Flagship Pussycat Theatre in West Hollywood was once equipped with a full Dolby Stereo system (a CP-50). During the 70’s & 80’s when they were paying union projectionists to run the adult houses. During that time if you were just starting out in the local, you got your start with a shift or two at an adult theatre. Those adult theatres were just worn out, the equipment and the theatre.

64lesabre
64lesabre on May 18, 2006 at 10:10 am

“Many”? I’m betting ALL.

William
William on May 18, 2006 at 10:05 am

Many of the remaining adult theatres around the country have been running videos for over the last 10-15 years. All the former Pussycat Theatres stopped running film 15 years ago. And at one time they were union projectionists running them. The theatres installed Sony or Barco type projection systems and VHS & later DVD players for the material. You could cut the amount of people on the payroll each shift by having a box office/snackbar person and a manager/video button pusher. Remember it’s cheaper to run video and no one strikes new 35mm prints for adult theatres anymore, because of the video age.

64lesabre
64lesabre on May 18, 2006 at 9:43 am

honestly, I would confidently bet good money they were showing video ——– think of it, paying a projectionist ALL day, preparing 3 or 4 different movies a week, and last but not least LOCATING the movie prints!? I’d love to be proved wrong.
What it comes down to V. Voice-wise is the writer mislead the reader a little so the article would have that retro-film cache value. Similarly innaccurate articles were done on the Metro Theatre in Toronto in the last few years.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 18, 2006 at 9:09 am

But I see no reason to doubt the Voice’s accounting of the condition of the theater’s facilities. (should have finished the thought before hitting the “Submit” button)

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 18, 2006 at 9:08 am

I’ll bet Alto can answer that question.

64lesabre
64lesabre on May 18, 2006 at 8:31 am

Something not made clear was if the Polk had still been projecting FILM up to the end. I know it is extremely doubtful, and info that is in the above postings indicates otherwise. But I would like to have this confirmed. The Village Voice article implies the place was still showing film — I’m sure this was just to make the article more interesting. Please forward any info on this or any adult cinema showing FILM to — thanks!
BTW — the Polk’s phone number is OOS.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 18, 2006 at 7:13 am

Great article, Warren. Thanks for posting it. The couple of times I went there to take photos, it was the cat-lady Sharon, and not the transsexual Paola, who was manning (no pun intended) the booth. I guess there must have been a platter system on those ancient projectors, eh? I didn’t get the feeling that there was a projectionist on duty from the discussion in the article.

BoxOfficeBill
BoxOfficeBill on May 18, 2006 at 5:07 am

I’ve mentioned this before, but James McCourt’s “Queer Street” has a terrific account of the Polk as a teenage hangout in the 1950s. McCourt does a few spots as a confidante and former interviewer of Bette Davis in Turner Classic Movie’s tribute to the star, “Stardust,” airing this evening at 6:30 pm.

RobertR
RobertR on May 17, 2006 at 2:08 am

With the Jackson having only three screens this could book first run.

Altoblanco
Altoblanco on May 17, 2006 at 12:54 am

It seems suspended in time. It has been closed since mid-February. In all probability, it will never reopen. Eventually, a buyer will come along and either make new use of tne space or demolish it.

The “status” in the profile is incorrect – it needs to be changed to “closed”.

Scholes188
Scholes188 on May 12, 2006 at 8:36 am

I passed by on Wednesday and the theater is still closed. I guess the Polk has reached the end of the line.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on May 12, 2006 at 8:28 am

Here’s my new Polk Theater album where I’ve reorganized the photos I previously posted in September and December. I also have a couple of vintage shots I stole from Warren, which he already posted above.

VillageVoice
VillageVoice on May 4, 2006 at 6:24 am

Warren — I am looking for historical photos of the Polk Theater and the ones you posted would be perfect. I know you posted them a long time ago, so it would be great if you could get back to me as soon as possible. My email address is Please email me!!

Thanks!!!

Jeffrey1955
Jeffrey1955 on April 19, 2006 at 9:30 am

Aw, don’t be too hard on Kevin. He tries hard.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on April 19, 2006 at 9:00 am

I’m happy one of the photos found some good use on that wonderful site! They also snagged one of my night-time shots of the Fair Theater (via a link to my photobucket page). Surprisingly, there is no mention of the Jackson Theater (now a triplex) on 82nd Street nor its old competitor, the now converted-to-retail Colony Theater just across the way. And what about the former Boulevard Theater on Northern? The forgotten-ny website is usually more thorough in its neighborhood coverage.

Jeffrey1955
Jeffrey1955 on March 18, 2006 at 5:06 pm

The second post from the top — posted by Warren on Feb 18, 2004 at 11:05am — has all these details and more.

Altoblanco
Altoblanco on March 18, 2006 at 9:46 am

I passed by the theatre again yesterday afternoon – nothing has really changed â€" it is still closed. There was no signage of any kind indicating what its status is. I looked inside and the double-doors were open, but the lobby was so dark that I could not make out any details. By all appearances, everything looked intact â€" no signs of major demolition going on (I even checked around back for dumpsters or debris â€" nothing).

The only things I saw (in the entry hallway, against a wall) were some open buckets filled with garbage, a big old round air-conditioning vent, and a very large, tall white metal “box” (with small vents on the bottom and an electrical cord) that resembled a refrigeration unit (?) of some kind. I could not make out the labels on the buckets, but they looked like they contained some type of black liquid, perhaps tar or asphalt sealant (which makes sense, since the roof leaked) â€" if this is the case, then they could be making repairs to the building (as opposed to demolishing it), but for what ultimate reason is anybody’s guess

Jeffrey1955
Jeffrey1955 on February 26, 2006 at 9:49 am

If the Polk really is to disappear, I wish there were some way to at the very least save that marquee — even uncover the original Polk Avenue sign, if it’s still hiding underneath — as it appears to be a true treasure of Art Deco design.

Ed Solero
Ed Solero on February 25, 2006 at 2:58 pm

Well… I’m glad a few of us got to post some photos here – and thanks Warren for the vintage shots of the marquee and auditorium. I just wish we had some photos of the place as it currently exists.

RobertR posted that he knew the owner of this theater. Perhaps he could settle whether or not that obscured “Renovations” sign is legit or not.

Altoblanco
Altoblanco on February 25, 2006 at 2:10 pm

Intuition is a funny thing, but this is downright creepy…

I was informed that as of Monday, February 20th (Presidents’ Day), this theater was closed. I passed by on Friday the 24th at 6 p.m. to investigate further, and by all appearances, it is true. All entry doors were locked, and the entire place was dark (except for a small lamp left on in the lobby, visible through an open inside door). All display cases, inside and out, were emptied of their ancient faded movie posters and hand-written notices. The box office booth was “de-cluttered” of items, and the hours of operation were no longer posted.

The only “official proof” of closure that I saw was a small, hand-made “sign”: an 8.5”x11” sheet of plain paper with a message scrawled in marker ink “CLOSED FOR RENOVATIONS â€" OPENING SOON”. However, it was casually placed on the counter, out of general view and difficult to see through the dirty glass (I had to squint to read it).

I do not believe there is any validity to this claim. If the owners were sincere in their attempt to publicize genuine changes or improvements, they would have conspicuously posted larger, more informative signs on the doors and the box office window, clearly visible from the sidewalk and street.

Renovating this facility (in its current condition) into a presentable, legitimate theatre operation would require MILLIONS of dollars and MONTHS of planning, inspections, permit approvals, and reconstruction. I just don’t see it happening. This neighborhood’s demographics simply do not support the need for any cinema, let alone a 599-seat movie theatre. Consider the following:
(1) Area residents are predominantly low-income or working class immigrants (mostly Mexican and other Spanish-speaking) who do not have the disposable income necessary for today’s ridiculous movie ticket prices.
(2) There is a huge Hollywood Video store located two blocks east on Junction Blvd, not to mention numerous small “mom & pop” convenience stores and even bodegas that rent or sell movies dirt cheap. And let’s not forget Queens Library’s Jackson Heights branch and its extensive DVD collection on loan for free. An affordable night at the movies for an economically disadvantaged family is a TV set and an inexpensive DVD player.
(3) The nearby Plaza Twin in Corona tried to make a go of it, showing first-run films with Spanish subtitles (this after converting half the space to a Walgreen’s drug store, then investing in downsizing and reconfiguring). Attendance was poor, the owners took a financial bath, and it closed. Having worked in areas where Spanish is the primary household language, I can tell you that most Hispanic customers do not want to read subtitles â€" they want their movie soundtracks IN Spanish, even if it’s dubbed (DVD-video has both capabilities, another reason for this medium’s immense popularity with this audience).
(4) The only [modestly] successful old-time movie house left in Jackson Heights is the Eagle (a former XXX theatre) that now plays Indian movies (a tremendously loyal fan base for “Bollywood” fare exists in the shopping area around 74th St. known as “Little India”)
(5) The Polk is located in an area that has an intimidating reputation, especially after dark. The Corona-Jackson Heights area is known for its Mexican and Columbian gang turf wars and drug peddling (especially along nearby Roosevelt Ave, where I’ve actually witnessed drug pushers, fights, police busts and a crime scene investigation that included yellow “do not cross” tape and a body bag).

It looks like this place is finished. Polk Theatre…1938-2006…R.I.P.

bradyc
bradyc on February 20, 2006 at 4:48 pm

Well, I’d like to applaud the initiative and curiosity of all here for sparking my curiosity in this theater. As mentioned in my earlier post, I came upon this site in a roundabout way, but it sparked my interest and I made a pilgrimage there this past weekend. I wasn’t sure if I’d go in, but that was decided for me. The Polk hadn’t yet opened for the day when I got there. I grew up just around the corner but hadn’t been out there (on foot) in 20-25 years. The posts on this site most definitely piqued my curiosity. I’m especially fascinated by the references to the McCourt book (had no idea he grew up on 94th St), which I haven’t read, but just bought, thanks BoxOfficeBill.
Alto, you mention the owner being in his 80s. I’ll bet it’s the same guy I remember owning the place when I was a kid. I think he first started running the “XXX” flicks around 1969 or so

Altoblanco
Altoblanco on February 20, 2006 at 3:43 pm

In response to Jeff:

“Initiative”? Yes…right…that’s it…“initiative”.

In response to Ed:

As for “curious”: can’t answer that (I’d be telling if I did).
As for “young”: why…absolutely! :–)